Hello from Canada! What a week it has been for UK politics – a new Chancellor as the culmination of a week of incompetence after incompetence, and musings now that the Prime Minister is finished one way or another. Frankly this is a shambles, and sadly it is unlikely to be the last from the Conservatives before the next election.
Here’s my issue, and one that I think badly needs to be addressed to stop this sort of this from happening again. The blame can, in my opinion, be almost wholly laid at the feet of the existing system of electing governments. In short, this is the First Past The Post system, so-called because it is made up of a series of elections where a single winner is determined in much the same way as a horse race – in other words, winner takes all. The winners of each local election then go to Westminster, and the largest party usually forms a goverment. When described like this, the system can sound fair, but it is not.
Democracy flourishes when the voices of the electorate are represented in government, not just in parliament. Right now, the system essentially passes near-absolute authority from one party to the main opposition, with all other voices essentially silenced. As an example, in the 2019 General Election, the breakdown of votes was as follows:
Or, in table form:
|Party||% of Vote||Number (%) of seats|
|Liberal Democrats||11.5||11 (1.7%)|
|Scottish National||3.9||48 (7.4%)|
So what does this mean? Well, at first glance it is clear that there is one major winner out of this, namely the Conservatives. With only 43.6% of the vote, they managed to take 56.2% of seats in Parliament, which effectively affords them 100% of the power, as they have a majority of MPs. All other views are effectively reduced to observer status, with no power afforded to opposition parties other than the right to ask questions of the Prime Minister (which they do not have to answer comprehensively or, it seems, honestly).
If, like me, you believe that parties in Parliament should actually reflect the electorate, there are many ways to bring that into effect. Noteably, proper representation would likely be better achieved by simply picking 650 people at random from the electoral roll to be MPs, eliminating the entire voting process. Clearly this would be an affront to democracy, but importantly it is still a better system than we currently have.
In reality, it would be far better to introduce a form of Proportional Representation, which essentially means that vote share and power share should be the same. In the 2019 General Election, this means the Conservatives would still be the largest party in Parliament, but unless they entered into a coalition with another party, they would be unable to weild the same absolute power that they currently hold. It is vanishingly unlikely that any party would ever again be able to take a majority position in Parliament, which would necessitate a change in political discourse from the curent adversarial approach to a more co-operative one relying on good communication and negotiation.
In short, this would ensure that power was shared among parties depending on how well they reflected the views of the electorate. I genuinely can’t see how this approach to democracy could reasonably be rejected by anyone except those who worry that such a change will result in less power for them and their party. Unfortunately, that means that the Conservatives vehemently oppose this policy, and the Labour leadership have likewise indicated that they do not support this change.
The Liberal Democrats have supported Proportional Representation for decades now, hence my decision to represent them rather than a party which does not believe that democratic votes should lead directly to political power.